What are The Climate Change Doing On Antarctica

The ice that floats on the Antarctic Ocean's surface now measures less than 17 million sq km - that is 1.5 million sq km of sea ice less than the September average, and well below previous winter record lows, BBC reported.

Scientists are now rushing to identify the factors behind this rapid decline of snow ice in the South Polar Region.


How sea ice is formed in Antarctica?


Sea ice forms during Antarctica's winter season (March to October), later melting in the summer. It's an integral part of a larger system that includes icebergs, land ice, and expansive ice shelves extending from the coast.

Sea ice serves as a protective barrier for land ice, preventing the ocean from warming. Dr. Caroline Holmes of the British Antarctic Survey warns that the consequences of diminishing sea ice might become apparent during the transition to summer, potentially leading to an unstoppable feedback loop of ice melting.

As sea ice diminishes, it unveils dark ocean areas that absorb sunlight instead of reflecting it. This leads to the absorption of heat energy by the water, further accelerating ice melt—a phenomenon known as the 'ice-albedo effect'. 

This could significantly increase heat in the environment, disrupting Antarctica's role as a global temperature regulator.


Why thinning sea ice is a big deal?


Since the 1990s, Antarctica's land ice loss has contributed to a 7.2mm rise in sea levels. Even modest sea-level increases can result in perilous storm surges, posing a threat to coastal communities. If substantial amounts of land ice were to melt, the consequences would be catastrophic for millions worldwide.

Antarctica, an isolated continent surrounded by water, possesses its distinct weather and climate system. Until 2016, its winter sea ice was expanding. However, an extreme heatwave in March 2022 in East Antarctica caused temperatures to rise to -10C, far from the expected -50C.

Antarctica is likely warming much faster than the predictions made by climate change models. Citing a study, a report by The Guardian on Thursday (September 7) said that scientists analyzed 78 Antarctic ice cores to recreate temperatures going back 1,000 years and found the warming across the continent was outside what could be expected from natural swings.

The scientists analyzed these ice cores that hold a record of temperature and then compared those temperatures to climate models and observations. The study found that Antarctica was warming at a rate of between 0.22°C and 0.32°C per decade, compared to 0.18°C per decade predicted by climate models.


Dr Mathieu, the lead author of the study, said scientists found direct evidence that Antarctica was also now undergoing polar amplification. Who works at France's Science Climate Environment, added that it was extremely concerning to see such significant warming in Antarctica, beyond natural variability.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center said that the ice floating on the Antarctic Ocean's surface measures less than 17 million sq km. This is 1.5 million sq km of sea-ice less than the September average and is an area of missing ice about five times the size of the British Isles.

 What if sea-ice disappears:

With more sea-ice disappearing, chances of more exposure to dark areas of ocean arises and this means that the heat energy is added into the water that melts more ice. Scientists have referred to this as the ice-albedo effect.

According to scientists, this effect adds a lot more heat to the planet and disrupts Antarctica's role as a regulator of global temperatures. 

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